According to results recently published in the Journal of Urology, men with low plasma levels of selenium are at increased risk for developing prostate cancer. Based on this evidence, researchers suggest that supplemental selenium may reduce the risk of prostate cancer, particularly in older men whose selenium levels tend to be lower.

The prostate is a male sex gland that is located between the bladder and the rectum. Prostate cancer occurs commonly in older men and is the second leading cause of cancer death in men in the United States. Prostate cancer is typically a disease of aging. It may persist undetected for many years without causing symptoms. In fact, most men die with prostate cancer not from prostate cancer.

Because prostate cancer develops over such a long period of time, any area that holds promise for prevention must be explored. It is currently believed that environmental factors may play a bigger role than genetic factors in the development of prostate cancer. Diet is one type of environmental factor that can be modified in hope of reducing the risk of developing prostate cancer.

Researchers from Stanford University recently conducted a clinical study involving approximately 150 men registered in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. The patient’s ages ranged from 49 to 91 years old and 52 men had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Selenium levels in plasma (the clear portion of blood in which cells are suspended) were measured an average of 3.83 years before prostate cancer was diagnosed.

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Researchers found that low plasma selenium levels are associated with a four- to five-fold increase in the risk of prostate cancer. They also noted that plasma selenium levels decrease with age, possibly explaining why older men are more likely to develop prostate cancer than younger men. These results suggest that taking supplemental selenium may reduce risk of prostate cancer. However, clinical trials are needed to confirm that supplemental selenium can help prevent the development of prostate cancer. (Journal of Urology, Vol 166, pp 2034-2038, 2001)

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